Crime Scene Unit Det. Jimmy Taggart, who in 2010 collected bags of frozen fetuses and jars of baby feet from the now-shuttered Women's Medical Center in West Philadelphia formerly run by abortion provider Dr. Kermit Gosnell, spoke for everyone on Wednesday when he said, "I'm glad it's over."
Gosnell, who officials said made $1.8 million each year by performing illegal, late-term abortions, was sentenced Wednesday to three consecutive life terms in prison without the possibility of parole, plus 2 1/2 to 5 years, after being convicted of first-degree murder in the deaths of three infants and of manslaughter for the 2009 fatal overdose of patient Karnamaya Mongar, 41.
"I will not mince words and this is not mere hyperbole – Kermit Gosnell at some point became a monster," District Attorney Seth Williams said, calling the case "arguably the most gruesome, the most vile" he's seen during his tenure.
Emotions were high Wednesday as the gag order was lifted from trial for the first time in three years of proceedings.
"To describe it as a woman, to see the squalor, to talk to these patients, to talk to the people that worked there, it was beyond belief that something like that could happen in a city such as this," prosecutor Joanne Pescatore said.
A jury on Monday found Gosnell guilty of the four deaths, along with hundreds of violations of the state abortion act.
The court was scheduled to reconvene on Tuesday to hear testimony in the sentencing phase of the trial.
The death penalty was on the table.
But Gosnell on Tuesday afternoon struck a deal with prosecutors, agreeing to serve life in exchange for waiving all future rights to appeal.
Williams said in allowing the bargain, he "acted to seal and preserve those verdicts for all time," adding, "It is our highest priority that these important verdicts are protected forever, not vulnerable to being disturbed by other lawyers or other courts on other days. By my decision, I have ensured these landmark verdicts forever."
He emphasized the prosecution was "groundbreaking" and the penalties handed down to Gosnell will deter any other doctors in the state who would consider practicing such cruelty and negligence.
"I think, in many ways, we have showed him mercy where he failed to show mercy to the lives of women that came to his Lancaster Avenue clinic to receive help," Williams said.
Juror Sarah Glinski said while reviewing the photographic evidence in the case, it was difficult for her to come to terms with the fact that children died at Gosnell's hands.
"It’s hard for me to admit this kind of evil exists in this world," she said.
Gosnell's attorney Jack McMahon called the verdict a "trampling of justice" and insisted his client is "far from a monster."
"I don't know how you could say that when you open up a cabinet in one of the procedure rooms and you find five jars of feet," Taggart retorted.
"Also, the garbage bags that are still in the basement – I think there's still babies in the basement."
Williams said when the medical examiner was several years ago given numerous trash bags recovered from the clinic containing frozen fetus parts, "he had no experience in how to examine them."
"He called medical examiners and coroners around the country, around the world, to try to figure out what to do to begin the process of examining them and no one had any answers for him," Williams said.
"There was no 'CSI: Miami' episode he could try to watch to try to figure this out."
Officer Terry Lewis said Gosnell's clinic is "number two" on the list of the worst crime scenes he's witnessed – second only to that of the World Trade Center bombings on Sept. 11.
"This is a case that no one is going to forget," Lewis said.
"This is a case that is going to go down in history in the city of Philadelphia and hopefully, we'll never have to revisit this kind of case again in Philadelphia."
Williams said the outcome wasn't a verdict on the practice of abortion itself.
"This case wasn't about the morality of abortion," he said, outlining the squalor uncovered during the initial raid of Gosnell's clinic and subsequent grand jury investigation and noting the number of children slaughtered will never be counted because the doctor ran a cash business and kept little to no records.
"This case ultimately was about holding accountable a person with a medical degree who allowed children to be born alive, to cry, to breathe, to squirm, to kick, and – again, in the shadows of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, within a short ride in an ambulance to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia – instead of allowing them to get much needed medical attention, severed their spinal cords. That is what this case was about.
"So I am certain that those on the far left, the far right, those that are most pro-choice, those that are most pro-life, can each claim victory – in an amount – in the horrors of what took place at the Women's Medical Clinic."